Maple Cheesecake with Pecan Pralines
October, 2004

Serves 16–20 / It was love at first bite when Native Americans introduced European explorers to the sweet sap of the maple tree. Look for maple sugar in the bulk or baking section of your natural market.

2 cups crushed gingersnaps (about 40 1 1/2-inch cookies)
4 tablespoons canola oil

4 eggs, separated
1 cup maple sugar
1 pound low-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
1 pound silken tofu, firm
16 ounces low-fat sour cream
1 4-ounce package low-fat vanilla tofu pudding mix (such as Mori-Nu)
2 tablespoons natural maple extract
Boiling water

Pecan Pralines
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon maple extract
1 cup pecan halves
2 tablespoons brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line the outside of a 10-inch springform pan with foil; make certain foil covers the entire bottom and extends 2 inches up the sides. (This creates a water-tight seal for the pan when cooking in the water bath, below.)
2. In a food processor, crush gingersnaps into a fine powder. Stir in oil. Press onto pan bottom and 1/2 inch up sides. Bake for 10 minutes on a baking sheet. Cool.
3. Whip egg whites until glossy and holding stiff peaks; set aside. In a food processor, cream egg yolks and sugar until creamy and light. Add cream cheese, tofu, sour cream, pudding mix, and maple extract. Puree until completely smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and fold in egg whites. Pour over crust; shake gently to settle.
4. Place a large baking pan in the oven and set cheesecake, with foil bottom, in the center. Pour boiling water into the baking pan, reaching 1 inch up the side of the cheesecake pan, creating a water bath. Reduce heat to 325º and bake for 70–90 minutes, until cake is set. Remove cheesecake from oven and water bath. Cool at room temperature; refrigerate overnight.
5. To make pecan pralines, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add extract and stir in pecans. Toast, stirring, for 3 minutes until fragrant. Pour into a bowl and toss with brown sugar. Chill. Garnish cheesecake with pecans just before serving.

PER SERVING (with 2 teaspoons pralines): 363 cal, 50% fat cal, 21g fat, 6g sat fat, 73mg chol, 10g protein, 36g carb, 1g fiber, 315mg sodium